Don't Make New Year's Resolutions
5 Better Ways to Jumpstart the New Year, and Actually Make Change
Day one. The dawn of the new year - and this one is a particularly big one since we’re not just ushering in a new year, but a new decade.
I love this time of year when the future feels bright and change feels achievable. We’re reminded that we have a whole year of possibilities stretched out in front of us.
Of course, this is the time of year when gyms are filled to capacity, bars are like ghost-towns, and everyone we know is trying out the latest fad diet.
At least for a few weeks, that is...
Ah, the time honored tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. When we resolve to change our bad habits in the quest for better health, better happiness and a better life.
According to a survey of 2000 people from early 2019, the top 3 resolutions were:
- Diet or healthier eating (71%)
- Exercise more (65%)
- Lose weight (54%)
Also on the list were admirable resolutions like: Quit smoking, Drink less, Spend less, and Read more.
Unfortunately for us, resolutions fail. 92% of the time, in fact.
Why is that?
Because change - true change that requires breaking habits and thinking and behaving differently - is hard.
Resolutions we make to change as the ball drops on the new year don’t take into account how well-worn the patterns and habits are that we’ve created and repeated for months, years or even decades.
If change was as easy as merely tapping into the wisdom of the experts - or Google - to tell you the relatively quick solution to implement, we’d all be exactly where we want in life.
But the kind of changes we want, like the resolutions we set, require much more than simply knowing where the gym is, how to drive there, and what exercises to do in order to tone up and get in shape.
The kind of change we’re after requires us changing how we think about it - our mindset about both the change and the solution. After all, knowing where the gym is doesn’t really help you jump out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5am to work out, or choose going to the barre class over the bar.
This year, rather than setting resolutions that are nearly destined to fail - and make you feel like a failure in the process - try some or all these recommendations to kick off the New Year with a great start and make this the year you truly do make the changes you’ve been dreaming of.
Choose a word (or two)
Think about how you want to live into and be in the new year. Consider what last year was like for you and what you want more or less of in your life. While resolutions can be easily and conveniently forgotten by February, remembering a word or two is much easier. Let it guide your decisions throughout the day and the year.
If you need a little inspiration, I asked this question recently on social media and got answers like “strong”, “healthy”, “deliberate”, “intentional”, “authentic”, “limitless”. Whether you choose these or something else entirely, the most important thing is that it has meaning and resonance for you.
To be intentional means to be on purpose, which is something most of us could use a little more of in our lives. Intentions are the way we're being or want to be as we live our lives and pursue our goals. Rather than exclusively putting our focus on some end goal, intentions inform how we choose to think and live in the present moment on our way to achieving a goal.
If your resolution would have been to lose 20 pounds, for instance, your intention could be to listen to and take care of your body, which is a way of being each and every day and guides the choices you make about how you eat, how you exercise and even how you sleep. Since there’s no specific destination, there’s no failure, just an opportunity to learn from and make another choice next time.
Create a vision
I think one of the reasons resolutions - and so many of our goals, dreams, hopes and aspirations for our lives - don’t take off is that we can’t actually picture ourselves living into the end result. If you haven’t taken the time to visualize your future self after having achieved your goal or realized your dream, then it becomes much harder to stay the course when life gets in the way or things get difficult.
Have fun with this by creating a detailed ‘day in the life’ of your future self having achieved your goal: what you’re doing, how you’re feeling and what’s possible for you now that you’ve successfully achieved your goal, or reached your goal.
This suggestion is a bit more time intensive, but the extra effort is also a lot of fun - and the activity can really pay off because the more you bring your vision to life, the more realistic it feels and can become.
What’s your 'Why'?
Every day I talk to people who want to change but when we really get into the conversation, many of them don’t know why they want it. I think most of us are much clearer on what we *don’t* want or simply believe we want something - anything - different, without knowing really what it is or why.
As you think about what you want to change for the year, get clear on your why. Why is this resolution/goal/intention important to you? The more you understand your ‘why’ around any goal, the more deeply connected you feel to achieving it. When you just focus on the goal itself, you connect to it logically, but when you focus on why it matters to you, you’ve just connected to it emotionally - and that always creates more commitment and action.
Take baby steps
I think most people don’t even attempt change because it feels so damn daunting. It’s overwhelming to stand in a place of stuckness and feel like you can barely see the goal line in the far, far - far - distance, up on top of a high peak on a tall mountain.
Rather than straining your eyes to look to the goal line, look down at the first step. Take it, and then another, and then another. And then one day, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come - and that mountain won’t feel quite *so* tall anymore.
Whatever your big goal might be, break it up into baby steps you can celebrate regularly. The more immediate gratification of the small wins encourages you to keep going toward the bigger ones. It also keeps the goal feeling fresh so you don’t get bored.
Resolutions fail. People don’t.
Be kind to yourself because change is hard.
The new year - like any new day - truly is an opportunity to choose to live life differently. And that always starts with how you choose to think, which drives the actions you take and the reality you create.
Which one of these activities most resonated with you? Let me know in the comments how you’re kicking off your new year with a better commitment to change!